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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Mike Zimmer admits he has had to “change up a lot” to get defense on track

By Judd Zulgad

MINNEAPOLIS — What happened to the Vikings’ defense?

That was a frequently asked question four games into the season with the Vikings sitting at 1-2-1. The No. 1 unit in the NFL last season in total defense (275.9 yards per game) and scoring defense (15.8 points), the Vikings had started to show cracks in the second half of a playoff victory over New Orleans and then came apart completely in an embarrassing 38-7 loss to Philadelphia in the NFC title game.

Because Mike Zimmer long has been considered a defensive mastermind, the expectation was that the Vikings coach would have any issues fixed by Week 1 against San Francisco. But the Vikings were giving up an average of 27.5 points and 381.5 yards through four games and that stretch concluded with an ugly defensive performance in a 38-31 loss to the high-flying Los Angeles Rams.

The following week the Vikings returned to Philadelphia and came away with a 23-21 victory and have won three of four since. Arizona and the New York Jets had 17 points apiece and the Lions were held to single digits in a 24-9 loss on Sunday. The Saints did score 30 points in a 10-point victory last Sunday, but that included a 45-yard return of a Kirk Cousins interception. The Cardinals also returned a Cousins fumble for a touchdown, meaning the Vikings defense has given up 59 points in the past four games, or an average of 14.8.

In going 4-1 in their past five, the Vikings also have cut down the yardage against to 274.5 per game. That figure is far more in line with what Zimmer’s defense gave up during the regular season in 2017.

So is this just guys playing better? Is it getting defensive end Everson Griffen back after a five-game absence? According to Zimmer, it’s more than that.

“Quite honestly, we’ve had to change up a lot,” Zimmer said after Sunday’s win put the Vikings at 5-3-1 entering their bye week. “For the last five weeks, probably, we’ve played pretty good defense. We were getting a lot of scheme things (from opponents). Because we’re good at what we did, people are copying it. There’s a lot of teams now that are playing a style of defense similar to us. Now, all these offenses are attacking these defenses pretty much the same way. So we’ve had to adjust and change coverages and what we’ve done in the red zone.”

Zimmer provided an example of Minnesota’s red-zone issues by bringing up an 8-yard pass that Todd Gurley scored on in the Rams’ victory over the Vikings. “That was a scheme thing,” Zimmer said. “So we’ve had to change up a lot of things that we’ve done. Luckily, our best players have been able to execute it. Part of it is having enough confidence to call some of these things and still be good against the run.”

The Vikings defense gave up only 66 rushing yards to the Lions, its second-lowest total of the season. Only the Saints have had more than 100 rushing yards against the Vikings in the past five games.

Zimmer was asked if seeing other teams use his coverages and pressures is frustrating or flattering?

“They’ve been stealing our blitzes for a long time,” Zimmer said. “They’ve been stealing our coverages now. I’m not saying it’s all. It’s similar. It may not be all the same. I told somebody the other day, ‘There’s probably 10 or 12 teams that are running, really, what our base coverage was all the time now. It’s like the old thing, everybody copies (you) if you’ve been good.

“So then you’ve got to change up and do other things. So far, we’ve been doing that and hopefully we can go back to doing some of the things we were doing before when they started adjusting. … The whole game is about adjustments. We made a lot of them during the course of the ballgame today.”

The post Mike Zimmer admits he has had to “change up a lot” to get defense on track appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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